The Development of the Palestinian Position Concerning Refugee Rights

by Mamdouh Nofal on 17/12/2004


First: Development of the Palestinian Position concerning resolving the Refugee Issue 1964-2004

• Establishment of the PLO activated and enhanced the position of the refugees.
• Defeat of 1967 as a set-back bringing about new waves of displaced refugees.
• September events in Jordan- further despair for refugees.
• Refugees issue on back-burner while caught up in the Lebanese quagmire.
• 1973 October war paves the way for realistic directions while postponing refugee issue.
• PLO’s 1982 defeat in Lebanon further complicated the refugee issue.
• First Intifada resuscitates hopes for statehood lifting up morale of refugees.
• Declaration of Independence and peace initiative dampens hopes to solve the refugee problem.
• Recognition of the Palestinian State disregards issue of refugees and the displaced.
• Madrid and Washington talks freeze refugee issue.
• Oslo Accords and mutual recognition involved concessions on historic right.
• Amending the national charter in 1996 alters the role of the PLO concerning refugee rights.
• Refugee issue plays a focal role in Camp David.
• Second Intifada obstructs peace process and defers issue of refugees.
• Taba talks and Clinton initiative lay guidelines to deal with the refugee issue.

Second: Development of official Arab position on the refugee issue 1964-2004

• Arab summit resolutions concerning the refugees.
• Position of the Arab League.
• Specific positions of certain Arab countries.


Monitoring and documenting Palestinian, Arab and International positions vis-à-vis the issue of Palestinian refugees, in a compact paper, is not an easy task. It involves dealing with a complicated, multidimensional problem through five decades often referred to as the crux of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Scores of resolutions and positions have been issued over the matter at so many levels ranging from the UN and its relevant bodies to the Islamic Conference, the non-aligned movement to the Arab League and its summit meetings. It has been an issue that kept so many governments busy either due to humanitarian factors or for hosting refugees in one form or another.

Despite the importance attached to the refugee problem on the international scene, there are no accurate statistics concerning the matter. Neither UNRWA nor the PLO nor the Arab League have come up with exact figures since the dispersal of the refugees in 1947-48 into special camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq or residing as equal citizens in some Arab countries or living in the West Bank and Gaza or elsewhere in Europe, U.S. and other continents. Of course there are also those who live within Israel proper.

This paper will address the issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, excluding those holding the Israeli nationality. It aims to focus, on the one hand, on the development of the Palestinian position concerning the refugee issue from 1964-2004 with focus on positions of the PLO, the PNA, and other national and Islamic forces. It will cover implications of the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations and agreements such as Madrid, Oslo, Taba, the Geneva Declaration. On the other hand, it addresses official Arab positions during the aforementioned period such as the Egyptian/Israeli Camp David accords, the Jordanian/Israeli Wadi Araba accords, as well as the positions of the Arab League and Arab summit meetings.

The paper does not cover positions of non-ruling forces and parties. The Arab and Palestinian components in the struggle are interconnected as well as the issue of refugees and the general legitimate Palestinian rights. Reference to Refugee rights involves: the right of compensation for material or moral losses for both who wish or do not wish to return, as embodied in the UNGA resolution 194 and other relevant resolutions. The same applies to the displaced and those who forcefully lost ID cards without any international party calling to compensate them materially or morally.

The Development of the Palestinian Political Position to Resolve the Refugee Issue

The formation of the PLO activated and enhanced the position of the refugees.

A review of the sequence of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict indicates that the Palestinian political system concerning the refugee issue passed through various phases. The first phase came after the Arab defeat in 1948 and the elimination of the Palestinian national movement prior to the formation of the PLO in 1964. The second phase included the defeat of 1967 and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with the displacement of several hundred thousand Palestinians lasting until 1988. This was a new phase inaugurated by the Declaration of Independence and the recognition of resolutions 242, 338 and Israel’s right to exist in November 88′. The Madrid Peace talks were launched in October 91′, followed by the 1993 Oslo Accords, the establishment of the PNA in 1994 with the consequent Camp David talks, Clinton’s initiative in 2000, Taba talks in 2001 and the actual options ahead.

In the first and second phases between 1948 and 1988, the Palestinian position evolved around “the liberation of the usurped land and the return to beloved Palestine”. Anything short of the right of return and compensation was rejected. For such an end the PLO came into being in 1964 with the support of Egyptian President Nasser and the approval of Arab countries. Without dismissing the role of the Arab and Islamic world, the PLO came to embody Palestinian aspirations with the Palestinian National Council (PNC) vehemently assuming the highest legislation position that would elect an Executive Committee to run matters. Negotiations were dismissed in the drive to resolve the dispute with Israel.

Despite Israel’s emergence as a mighty military force, the refugees did not give up or lose hope of liberating and returning to their homeland. They persistently rejected various projects and proposals for resettlement and compensation insisting on their right of return.

The UN institutions, at the insistence of Arab countries, kept discussing the refugee issue seeking to come up with humanitarian and political solutions. This was not disconnected from the Cold War that played a role in the inability to find a solution to the refugee issue.

The Arab countries refused to recognize Israel or establish diplomatic links until the signing of the Camp David Accords with Egypt in 1978. All proposals for resettlement and canceling the right of return were systematically rejected. While the accords with Egypt were unilateral, the Oslo accords paved the way to expand Israel’s ties with a number of Arab countries. The Arab League maintained the position taken after the Nakba of 1948. It sought to mobilize support to the refugees in their struggle to return and regain their property. It expressed mistrust in the Israeli Custodian of absentee property, called for rental payments on the use of Arab properties pending the solution of the refugee problem, protested Israel’s sale of Arab properties demanding nullification of such sales. It also demanded that estimating costs on property should be based on market value on the eve of the November 47′ Partition Plan.

With Egyptian President Nasser’s pan-Arab tendencies and Israeli threats including the diversion of the Jordan River course, Nasser summoned Arab leaders for a summit meeting in January 1964. Ahmad Shuqairi represented Palestine. The summit expressed support for Palestinian yearnings and endorsed the principle of establishing the PLO “as a framework of mobilization and organization for the battle”. The summit statement asserted that “having faith in the sacred right of the Palestinian people for self determination and liberation from Zionist colonialism, the presidents and kings have taken the decisions necessary to allow it to fulfill its role in liberation and self determination”.

Nine months later, in September 1964, a second summit was held in Alexandria. The meeting “welcomed the establishment of the PLO in support of the Palestinian entity and the establishment of a liberation army”. The liberation of Palestine was declared as a common national objective. The Palestinians welcomed such a turn of events with the refugees elated that their cause is back on the scene. Based on the summit decision, the first PNC session was held in Jerusalem in May 28, 1965, Shuqairi was elected as Chairman. The National Charter and the PLO by-laws were approved.

The Charter stated that all forces of refugees and residents shall be mobilized to achieve “liberation and return”. The second article stipulated that “the historic land of Palestine is a regional unit that is indivisible”. It further stated that “the Arab Palestinian people is the legitimate party in its homeland and has the right to self determination after liberation”.

According to the Charter, the Palestinians were defined as the Arabs living in Palestine until 1947 and all those born to an Arab Palestinian father. “Armed Struggle is the only way for the liberation of Palestine”. Article 11 raised three slogans: Unity-Mobilization-Liberation. The 1947 Partition, the Balfour Declaration and the Mandatory decree were renounced and declared null and void.

The Council took a number of decisions to prepare the people for battle. This spurred “Fatah” to prepare for military operations. The first guerilla operation was launched on January 1, 1965. “Fatah” declared that it was an independent movement and actively operated within the refugee camps.

The PNC convened in Cairo (May 31-June4, 1965) rejecting Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba’s announcement in Jericho calling Arabs to recognize the UN Palestine Partition Plan.

The third Arab summit was held in Casablanca in September 1965. A decision was taken to resist attempts to liquidate the refugee issue. A year later, the PNC convened its third session in May 1966. Membership in the Council was raised to 466 of whom a large number were refugees.

Defeat of 1967 as a set-back creating the problem of new refugees

Early in 1967, Israel accelerated its threats as relations with Syria and Egypt deteriorated. According to the PLO Basic Law, the PNC was due to convene its fourth session in early June 1967. Instead, the war erupted on June 5, both the refugee issue and the region entered a new phase. In addition to conquering the rest of Palestine i.e. the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Jordan, Israel occupied Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. During the first few days of the fighting, more than 250,000 people from the West Bank were displaced joining the rank of refugees. In conjunction with UNRWA, Jordan set up camps in the North and Central parts of the country. The problem of the displaced “Naziheen” came into being.

With the successful Israeli assault, the refugees were left in despair. Palestinians inside were united under Israeli Occupation while extreme positions prevailed abroad calling for liberation, statehood and the return of refugees and the displaced. Most forces came under the PLO umbrella. The religious groups such as the Moslem Brotherhood abstained from joining the armed struggle. On June 19, following the war, President Johnson declared a five-point initiative with one referring to a “fair” resolution to the refugee problem that has exacerbated and “solving their problem in a just way”.

Consequently, the Security Council issued unanimously Resolution 242 on November 22 that mentioned “Withdrawal of Israeli forces from lands occupied in the conflict and achieving a just solution to the Refugee problem”.

In response to the humiliating defeat, the PLO rejected resolution 242 deeming it unsatisfactory to meet Palestinian rights. During the Khartoum meeting held in August 29 to September 1, 1967, the Arabs declared the three “Nos”: No reconciliation, No recognition and No negotiations with Israel. Recognition of Israel was a strict Arab taboo while Palestine and the refugees symbolized the humiliated Arab pride.

Within such an atmosphere, Fatah, with its adoption of armed struggle, flourished recruiting Palestinian youth largely in Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon camps. At the time, Islamic movements such as the Moslem Brotherhood refrained to resort to arms. Palestinian groups with pan-Arab tendencies, such as members of the Arab Nationalist Movement and the Ba’th Socialist Party sought to join the armed struggle. The PLO faced melodramatic changes with the resignation of Shuqairi towards the end of 1967. The Executive Committee elected Yahia Hammouda as Deputy Chairman to lead the Organization prior to convening the fourth session.

By 1968, guerilla groups were entrenched in the Jordan Valley escalating military operations against Israel that feared the possibility of Jordan’s becoming a staging ground for such attacks. On March 31, 1968, Israel carried out an operation inside Jordanian territory. Refugee camps in Jordan and the rest of the population were up in arms to support the guerillas. However, there were factional disputes and a preparatory committee was formed to nominate 100 Palestinians, mostly refugees from abroad.

The PNC held its fourth session in Cairo on July 1968` and endorsed “Armed struggle as the path to liberation and return”. Concerning the idea of a Palestinian entity on the lands occupied on June 5, 67′, the Council warned of “suspicious calls to establish an entity that runs contrary to the Palestinian right over all the land of Palestine”. It stated that the Palestinian objective transcends “the removal of traces of the 1967 aggression”. Resolution 242 was vehemently rejected since it calls for “the end of war, safe borders and recognition of Israel”.

During the session, certain participants discussed the future of Jews following liberation and endorsed the idea of a Palestinian democratic state where the two parties would be on an equal footing by law.

Based on the decisions of the fourth session, the Executive Committee acted to reconvene the PNC which held its fifth session in Cairo in February 1969. No significant policy changes occurred while Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s nine-point proposal presented to the UN General Assembly on October 9 was rejected. In its fifth article, the proposal included “Discussion of the refugee problem shall take place in a conference of M.E. countries that will set up a five-year plan to solve the problem and establish committees to settle and absorb them.

The Council vowed “to firmly confront surrender solutions”. It reiterated rejection of 242 and the Soviet proposal, as well as the American proposal of 1969 that called for the return of those who left after 1967 to their areas of residence and for the rest to be resettled in Arab countries with the U.S. pledging to contribute for their economic development and absorption.

The sixth PLC session was held in June 69′ with the Executive Committee proposing to add new members- all of them being refugees and displaced from abroad. This was approved unanimously. With the guerilla warfare, counterproductive practices occurred by Palestinians such as cases of kidnapping and detention of civilians and others as well as car thefts and abuse of Jordanian official cars and personnel. Encroachment upon official Jordanian institutions included occupying the post office in central Amman. In December 1967, the fifth Arab summit was held in Rabat, Morocco. Pledges were made to fully support the “Revolution” and Arab steadfastness in the Occupied Territories. The failure of peace initiatives promoted mobilization as a path to liberation.

As a result of border tensions and internal frictions, the relation between Jordan and the PLO became severely strained. The PNC convened its seventh session in Cairo between May 30 and June 4, 1970. A decision to form a joint higher committee of the national movement in the East Bank and the “Revolution” was taken to foster a close union between the two peoples. A similar arrangement was done on Lebanon. The issue of the “Democratic State” in all of Palestine where Arabs and Jews could live together was referred to the Executive Committee.

On December 9, 1969, William Rogers announced his initiative, calling for “Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in the 1967 war in return for Arab guarantees to achieve a real peace. In May 1970, Rogers came up with a second initiative declaring that: “The U.S. has taken up a new step and presented peace proposals to encourage the Arabs and Israel to have a cease-fire and start up talks”. President Nasser agreed to accept the Rogers plan while the Palestinian leadership rejected it causing a rift in their relationship. The strain further exacerbated the relations with Jordan resulting in armed clashes.

Amidst such conditions, the PLO Executive Committee summoned an extraordinary PNC session in Amman on August 27, 1970 with strictly Palestinian security measures that further intimidated the Jordanian regime. The session lasted two days and escalated the crisis with Jordan, rejecting the “conspiracy” of the Rogers plan while ascertaining that anyone speaking in the name of Palestine other than the leadership is a renegade. It stressed the Jordanian/Palestinian unity but vehemently opposed having two mini-states; Jordan and Palestine.

Following the September Events in Jordan-Refugee Dreams Wither Away

On September 17, 1970 full-scale confrontation erupted between Jordan and the PLO. Nasser intervened to contain the matter. An Arab summit was promptly held merely calling for a cease fire and getting Arafat out of Amman into Cairo. With the conclusion of the summit in September 70′, the news carried out the death of Nasser. An important chapter ended bringing to end international initiatives for some time to come.

The September events and the departure of Nasser raised a mood of despair dismissing Palestinian hopes for liberation and return. Once again, calls for pan-Arab struggle prevailed to confront Israel with Palestinians feeling isolated. Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Sharon was ruthlessly pounding the Gaza Strip, tearing apart entire quarters under the pretext of building a security road and dispersing camp dwellers within the Strip, the West Bank and Al ‘Arish.

The unfolding events indicated that the scene was not ready for reaching a solution. Israel was not in a position to have a vision of its future relations with its neighbours. It appeared as if the issue of the 1948 refugees and the displaced of 1967 would wither away and Sinai, the Golan Heights and Palestine would be under its control forever.

Under such harsh conditions, the PNC held its eighth session between February 28 and March 5 in Cairo. The focus was on organizational issues. In addition to referring to the issue of refugees and the displaced, “attachment to national and historic rights” was stressed. Membership in the Council involved 150 persons, entirely refugees or displaced since nominating members from the West Bank and Gaza would expose participants to detention or expulsion by the Israelis.

Although the issue of putting up the house in order was of prime concern in the PNC, a transitional political plan was endorsed. Reference was made to the democratic state in terms that “the Palestinian armed struggle is not a racial or denominational fight against the Jews as such, but a form to live in peace with equal rights and obligations. Following the meeting, the leadership strengthened its presence in Lebanon with Syrian encouragement. Lebanon, that could hardly deal with the 1969 Cairo Nasser-sponsored accord was feeling alarmed by increased Palestinian military presence.

In July 1971, the PNC held the ninth session in Cairo taking a number of decisions concerning Jordan, such as “all revolutionary forces are asked to initiate supporting the efforts of the Jordanian national forces to establish a democratic patriotic regime”. It stressed commitment to the Cairo Accord and recognizing the revolution as representative of the people of Palestine. As for the situation in Lebanon, there was a call for the Executive Committee and the Higher Political Committee to form camp committees in order to “mobilize and organize the masses”. It stressed armed struggle as the path to liberation rejecting all peaceful initiatives that undermine Palestinian historic and natural rights including Resolution 242.

Refugee Issue on the Back-Burner while Caught up in the Lebanese Quagmire

Gradually, the PLO leadership focused on the Palestinian situation in Lebanon. Thousands of armed combatants took up positions in Southern Lebanon and the camps taking control of the Arqoub area that was named the Eastern sector while Israel called it Fatah land. Guerillas had frequent skirmishes with the Lebanese army and government while matters related to refugees and the Right of Return were shelved in a back-burner. The leadership held an early extraordinary PNC tenth session in Cairo in April 72′ in conjunction with a popular conference involving various representatives from the Palestinian Diaspora and the Occupied Territories. The PNC reviewed the recommendations presented by the popular meeting and endorsed a number of decisions “to protect the revolution”. A number of factions pursued launching guerilla operations abroad. The PFLP staged, in cooperation with the Japanese red army, an attack on Ben Gurion Airport at the end of May 1972. In September of the same year, the Black September Organization attacked and killed a number of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. Tension continued to rise in Lebanon, eventually leading to the eruption of the civil war. A joint Lebanese Palestinian command was formed headed by Sa’ed Sayel.

As a result of such special circumstances, the PNC failed to convene on schedule but managed to meet in Cairo on January 6, 1973 and came up with as number of organizational resolutions. The Executive Committee was authorized to handle matters in light of the political program at the time, in accordance with the Charter and standing PNC resolutions. A work plan offered by the Executive Committee was endorsed. The role of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was emphasized as being crucial.

Lebanese appeals to control the flow of weapons and Palestinian fighters went unheeded while Southern Lebanon became effectively under full Palestinian control. By mid 1973, Israel was alarmed at the increased military activity and staged a concerted attack in the heart of West Beirut, simultaneously attacking the headquarters of the PDFLP and assassinating Kamal Adwan, Abu Yousef Najjar and Kamal Nasir in their flats. Ehud Barak was involved in the killings while Amnon Shahak carried out the partial destruction of the PDFLP offices.

Following the Israeli assaults in Rue Verdin and Fakahani, the PLO sought to protect its presence in Lebanon and got embroiled in the Lebanese quagmire. Increasingly it distanced itself from the core of the Palestinian issues under the slogan of protecting Palestinian presence within Lebanon. The 1973 October war created a radically new situation with prospects for the need to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict through International and, more specifically, U.S. efforts under international auspices.

1973 War paves the Way for Realistic Directions while Postponing Refugees Issue

Both Presidents Sadat and Assad needed to assert credibility after assuming power in Egypt and Syria in their earnest drive to liberate their lands occupied in 1967. They both emerged following internal power struggles. Following meticulous preparation and remarkable maneuvering they launched on orchestrated attack on October 6,1973 against Israeli forces in Sinai and the Golan Heights. The Palestinian Liberation army, based in Lebanon, participated in the war. Before the dust settled, the Security Council issued Resolution 338 on October 22 that was accepted by Syria and Egypt. For the first time Syria recognized Resolution 242 while Palestinians rejected Resolution 338. However, there was hope that progress would occur towards ending the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, solving the Refugee problem and the establishment of an independent Palestinian entity.

Meanwhile, a sixth Arab summit was held on November 26, 1973 in Algeria endorsing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, with Jordan expressing reservations. Syria and Egypt were assigned not to miss the opportunity to reach a deal, on condition that they do not undermine basic Arab rights, particularly Israel’s withdrawal and the inalienable national Palestinian rights.

The PNC endorses the National Authority Plan

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and certain Arabs proposed that the PLO should capitalize on the momentum created by making use of resolutions 242, 338 and distinguish between what is possible to achieve on the ground and long-term historic objectives. The Palestinian leadership unanimously rejected the resolutions that deal with the Palestinian cause as merely an issue of refugees with no mention of the PLO. Parallel to this line, a realistic approach was endorsed by the Communist Party, PDFLP and Fatah accepting a compromise position to achieve national objectives. Such a position was rejected through what became known as the “Palestinian Rejection Front” supported by Libya, Iraq and Syria. However, the PNC managed to approve the “Ten Points” plan in the 12th session held in Cairo in June 1974. An agreement was reached to defer discussion of the refugee issue since there were prospects for the emergence of a Palestinian entity on part of the land. Opponents argued that this is a capitulation to imperialist and Zionist schemes and an abandonment of the refugee rights.

Following a sharp controversy, the realistic trend prevailed swinging a majority and becoming the mainstream PLO policy. It endorsed establishing a national authority on any land liberated without giving up the right of return and self determination.

In October 1974, the seventh Arab summit was held in Rabat in what could be described as the most positive for Palestinians. Unanimously, the PLO was recognized as the sole representative and the objective was to liberate lands occupied in 1967 and restoring Palestinian rights as defined by the PLO.

With Henry Kissinger’s success in concluding the second Sinai accords between Egypt and Israel, the slogan of “Bye Bye PLO’ was uttered by the U.S. State Secretary while the Lebanese civil war erupted. That war, that lasted around ten years, was triggered up when the Phalangist Party opened fire on a bus carrying Palestinian camp refugees. The Palestinian movement was embroiled in the quagmire washing away all achievements and causing enormous losses to the refugees in Lebanon, both in terms of lives and material damage.

With the appointment of Cyrus Vance as Secretary of State, following Jimmy Carter’s winning the 1976 elections, the U.S. sought to bring Israel and the Arabs to resume the Geneva Conference that was in a lull since 1973. Israel rejected U.S. attempts to involve Palestinian representatives, preferring discussing matters with Jordan. The PLO did not mind participating in the negotiations through a joint Arab delegation but rejected what became known as the “Jordanian Option”.

The 13th session of the PNC was held in March 1977. One hundred figures from the Occupied Territories were nominated, without announcing their names for their own safety. The compromise program was endorsed while “rejecting 242 and U.S. plans to liquidate the Palestinian cause asserting the right of return and self-determination. There was a call to enhance relations with Democratic Jewish forces opposing Zionism. Meanwhile, the Likud, under Menahem Begin, assumed power in 1977 aborting the preparations for the Geneva Conference and adopting a policy that would pre-empt progress in a comprehensive manner.

In November 1977, President Sadat, in a surprise move, declared that he is ready to go all the way for the sake of attaining peace – even if it meant going to the Knesset. Most members of the PLO did not take him seriously but issued a number of statements condemning the move on 17 November 1977.

On November 19 and 20 Sadat was actually in Israel and, from the Knesset podium, he declared that he was not there for a partial bilateral deal between Egypt and Israel but sought “a permanent just peace based on total withdrawal from the Arab lands occupied in 1967 and securing the basic rights of the Palestinian people, including self-determination and the establishment of an independent state”.

Ten days following Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, a mini-Arab summit was held on December 4, 1977 in Tripoli attended by Libya, Syria, Algeria, Southern Yemen and Iraq to coordinate positions to encounter the Egyptian move. Arafat addressed the summit stating that: “If this generation of Arabs is not capable of freeing their land due to regional and international power imbalance, no one has the right to undermine the Palestinian cause and close the door of liberation for coming generations”. The summit resulted in the formation of the “National Front for Steadfastness and Confrontation” that was announced in Algeria in 1978 with the aim of foiling a bilateral Egyptian/Israeli deal.

Nevertheless, the bilateral talks proceeded and, after arduous negotiations with President Carter’s massive input, the Camp David Accords were announced on September 17, 1978. Egypt recuperated all its land occupied in 1967 bringing about the bilateral peace accords. Looking back, one may discern that Sadat’s objective was not a bilateral solution but to set up the basis for a comprehensive resolution that would include the Golan Heights and the Palestinian cause.

The Camp David Accords included a “Framework for negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza Strip”. Israel formally accepted the establishment of an elected Palestinian autonomous authority with practical arrangements for the return of those who were displaced on June 5, 1967. The transitional period was set up for five years, prior to reaching a final comprehensive and just settlement that would be based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and neighbourly relations. “The outcome was to recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and their just demands”. In his letter to Carter in September, Sadat pledged that: “Egypt is ready to assume the Arab position as specified in the accord to guarantee protecting the rights of the Palestinian people”.

The Camp David accords alleviated the strain in Palestinian/Jordanian relations resulting in a “joint action framework” on October 29, 1978 stressing the need for cooperation and achieving a just peace. The Jordanian/Palestinian rapprochement facilitated the Baghdad summit meeting on November 5, 1978 with the attendance of all Arab countries except Egypt. The summit asserted that “the Palestinian cause lies at the core of what is at stake to the Arabs in the conflict with the enemy and no Arab party can abandon such a commitment”.

Failing to meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, the PNC held the 14th session in Damascus (15-22 January 1979). The political resolutions stated that: “the Camp David Accords seriously undermine the Palestinian and Arab liberation cause and allows Israel to proceed in usurping Palestine undermining the right to the land and to self determination”. It reiterated the inalienable right of return.

In November 1979, Arab leaders meeting in their tenth summit in Tunis declared that “the Israeli presence in Arab lands is at the core of the conflict with the Zionist enemy”. They condemned Camp David and the Egyptian/Israeli agreement while expressing alarm for certain countries restoring diplomatic ties with Israel or recognizing Jerusalem as its capital. The same principles were reiterated in the November 1980 11th Arab summit held in Amman.

The PNC held its 15th session in Damascus in 1981. Representatives from the Occupied Territories were increased from 122 to 180 with no quorum requirements so that the Council could proceed in its deliberations.

PLO’s 1982 Defeat in Lebanon Further Complicates the Refugee Issue

Early in June 1982, the Israeli ambassador to London faced an assassination attempt. Begin held the PLO responsible and declared war sending Israeli troops storming into Lebanon. In the aftermath of the siege of Beirut, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon revealed other objectives. Following arduous negotiations, a ceasefire agreement was reached on August 13, 1982 with the approval of all Palestinian factions. A multilateral force was assigned to protect the camps. Arafat headed to Greece declaring that he is on his way to Jerusalem and calling upon the Lebanese national forces to safeguard the refugees in the camps.

On August 21, 1982, the first bunch of Palestinian fighters was evacuated through Beirut port. The scene of the departure was deeply moving with young women from camps, in tears, beseeching the fighters not to abandon them and “surrender to the Arab international conspiracy”. At the time, they only asked the fighters to take them along or provide them with protection in their camps.

While the evacuation was taking place, Bashir Jemayyel, head of the Lebanese forces was elected on August 23, 1982 as the new President. This was a bad omen for Palestinians who sought to seek protection in the camps. Jemayyel was on record as saying that there are five peoples in this area and four states- so there is an additional people that needs to be eliminated, referring to more than five million Palestinians.

The “isolationist forces” took positions in most parts of West Beirut after the departure of the Palestinian fighters. However, Sa’ed Sayel and the last wave of military commanders were keen to pay their respect by visiting the martyrs’ cemetery where prominent fighters rest. In violation of the accord reached with the U.S. envoy Philip Habib, Sharon dispatched his troops 48 hours after the formal departure of the last batch of Palestinian fighters combing West Beirut from house to house in search of PLO elements.

Camp Wars in Lebanon Dispel Hopes for Return and Statehood

As the last fighters to leave on September 1, 1982 were heading to the Syrian port of Tarsous, U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared that the departure of the PLO from Beirut is a memorable event that paves the way to resolve the Arab/Israeli conflict and find a settlement to the Palestinian issue. However, Begin rejected Reagan’s initiative considering it a deviation from the Camp David accords. It did not take long for the Arabs to express their position over the initiative. This time it was in the 12th Summit meeting (6-9 September 1982) in Fez, Morocco. The final statement referred to Tunisian President Bourguiba’s proposal based on the Partition Plan 181 issued in November 1947. Saudi King Fahed’s eight-point plan was endorsed as a basis for resolving the conflict. The fourth point asserted “the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination and the exercise of its established national rights and resolving the refugee issue and compensating those who do not wish to return. The seventh point in the second Fez summit referring to “Israel’s right to exist” evoked sharp controversy among Palestinians even within the participating delegation.

Lebanese President Bashir Jemayyel was assassinated in a carefully-planned explosion on December 14, 1982. Although the killing was not connected to the struggle with the Palestinians, it was the refugees in Sabra and Shatila that had to pay the price through the massacres that occurred there. In fact the Lebanese identity of the perpetrator was identified.

Following the massacre, disputes within Fatah surfaced with mounting opposition to the leadership. A left wing Fatah splinter group separated creating its own leadership. Seeking to renew legitimacy, Arafat managed to convene the PNC’s 16th session in Algeria in February 1983 where the right of return, self determination and the establishment of a state were reiterated. The Fez resolutions were considered the minimal level to concert Arab moves.

To further contain the ramifications of the split, Fatah held the 17th PNC session in Amman in November 1984 on the background of a boycott of the forces on the left. The importance of the Palestinian/Jordanian relations was emphasized. There was no special mention of the refugee issue other than reference to the established rights of the Palestinian people as embodied in the right of return, self determination and statehood.

Arafat focused on improving ties with Jordan. On February 11, 1985 an agreement for joint action was declared with an implied PLO acceptance of 242 and the formation of a joint delegation to peace negotiations. The U.S. welcomed the agreement as a constructive step. Coordination with Egypt was also enhanced while there was talk of a meeting of a joint Jordanian/Palestinian delegation and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, where the PLO would recognize unequivocally 242, 338 and the right of Israel to exist within safe and recognized boundaries.

The Intifada Resuscitates Hope for Statehood

By the end of 1986 and early 1987, pressure mounted calling for national unity. The PNC 18th session was held in Algeria in April 1987 under the title of the “National Unity Session”. A decision to abrogate the Amman accord was taken and endorsement of the Brezhnev initiative. Concerning the International Conference, the PNC endorsed the Security Council’s Resolutions 58/38 and 43/41 within the framework, and supervision of the UN with the participation of permanent members.

Few months later, on December 9, 1987, the West Bank and Gaza erupted in a massive uprising starting from the Gaza camps. This came as a great surprise that influenced all Palestinian groups shifting the focus of Palestinian activity into the inside.

Three months later, in February 1988 U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz came up with an initiative declaring that the objective is “to achieve a comprehensive peace that guarantees the security of all states in the region and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people based on UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338 in all its components”. Palestinian representation was to be within a joint delegation with Jordan. A time-frame was set up for a six-month transitional phase and negotiations for a final phase to start seven months after the start of transitional talks that should come to an end within one year. At the time, the leadership refused the Shultz plan with an attitude of overconfidence as to what the Intifada could achieve. Member of Fatah Central Committee Farouk Kaddoumi declared that the state should not be confined to the borders of 1967 but rather on UN partitions plan 181 of 1947.

The Peace Initiative Deferred Discussion of Refugee Issue

The Intifada created a new situation in the region emphasizing the urgency of the need to find a solution to the conflict. Arab countries responded to the PLO’s call to convene in Algeria in June 1988 with the objective of supporting the Intifada and finding a common ground regarding the settlement and to spur international moves to find a just and comprehensive way out of the conflict.

With the Intifada asserting firmly the role of the PLO, Jordan realized that this was a turning point in its relation with the West Bank and the PLO. On July 31, 88’, King Hussein declared Jordan’s disengagement from the West Bank. However, this did not end the differences between both sides since the PLO questions the status of the two million Palestinian refugees who are Jordanian passport holders.

Consequently, the Intifada became a way of life supporting a realistic political course. The United National Leadership sent more than a message to the PLO urging a reasonable position based on 242, 338 and recognition of Israel within the boundaries of 1967 in return for withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Implicitly the refugee issue was deferred becoming an issue of civil rights related to title deeds and compensation procedures similar to Palestinians holding Israeli passports.

Under Intifada pressure, the leadership held a workshop to hold a new PNC meeting and amend the political program. Following deep rifts, a line calling for two states for two people prevailed with the refugee issue deferred.

During the PNC meeting on October 6, 1988 the disparity in positions surfaced clearly. PFLP leader George Habash opposed recognition of 242 and 338. In response, Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) pointed out that the PLO plan was 14 years old and there is a need to get out from the stalemate and move on towards statehood. “Absolute rejection serves only the enemy”, he added.

Abu Iyad firmly believed that liberating Palestine requires starting from any part of the land- in this case being the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He reminded the participants of the past where the 1947-48 partition was rejected and Palestine was completely lost while Israel moved foreword an inch and an inch. He stressed that Palestine shall not return in one piece and the state will not be offered on a “silver or tin” plate. Those who disagree could go and hand over matters to the Hashemites declaring that they had erred in considering the PLO, the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians, he added.

Following the deliberations, it was decided to adopt calling for a Palestinian state, to live, side by side with Israel based on Resolution 181 that forms the basis of the establishment of Israel. Mahmoud Darwish, the renowned poet and member of the PNC was assigned to draft the text. A consensus prevailed calling for statehood within the boundaries of 1967 while there were differences over 242, 338, the right of Israel to exist and the modalities of establishing a provisional government. Pending issues were deferred to the 19th PNC session held in Algeria (12-15 November 1988). Hamas dispatched a letter to the Council claiming that the core of what is requested is merely recognition of the Jewish state to live in peace and security over “our land” stressing that Palestine is indivisible and belongs to the Palestinians and the Umma. Zionist presence does not undermine such a right calling for the resumption of Jihad operations inside “occupied Palestine”.

As for the PFLP, the pro-Iraq Arab Liberation Front and some Fatah figures such as Kaddoumi, it became clear that they would vote against 242 and 338 but in favour of establishing a state along the 1967 boundaries. The Communist Party was elated at the turn of events. Its leader Suleiman Najjab was full of praise for the “ability of the Palestinian brain to adapt with the new phase”. The PDFLP was clearly divided in taking up a position over the matter.

Before taking the vote, Salah Khalaf defended the new orientation claiming that there is no way for holding an International Conference based on Resolutions 181 and 194 as a pre-condition. However, these issues could be brought up later on. He stressed that the Palestinian struggle is at a crucial juncture and that Fatah would “stay loyal to its principles and would not abandon an inch of the land of Palestine”. When the vote was taken, PFLP, ALF and some Fatah factions voted against the paragraph referring to 242 and 338.

While this was not the first peace initiative, it was actually the first time that Palestinians unequivocally expressed a position. In 1968, there was a call for a secular democratic state where Jews, Christians and Muslims would live on equal footing with the refugees exercising the right of return. In 1974, the principle of establishing a Palestinian national authority on lands evacuated by Israel was endorsed. In 1977, the American/Soviet declaration over the Palestinian question was immediately accepted. On September 9, 1982, the PLO agreed to King Fahed’s initiative adopted in the Arab summit. In 1989, “Shamir’s” plan for elections was approved in principle. The plan was submitted to the Arab summit held in Casablanca in May 1989 but did not develop into a practical political process.

Despite inter-Palestinian divisions, the PNC unanimously supported the Declaration of Palestinian Independence on November 15, 1988, calling for the establishment of Palestine within the boundaries of the lands occupied in 1967. The Declaration included the following excerpts: “Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, develop and excelled. Thus the Palestinian Arab people ensured for itself an everlasting union between itself, its land and its History”…”and it was the Palestinian people, already wounded in its body, that was submitted to yet another type of occupation over which floated that falsehood that “Palestine was a land without people” “. “Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination, following upon U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty and national independence.”…”Now by virtue of natural, historical and legal rights…In pursuance of Resolutions and adopted by Arab Summit Conferences and relying on the authority bestowed by international legitimacy as embodied in the Resolutions of the United Nations Organization since 1947… The PNC hereby proclaims the establishment of the State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem (Al-Quds Ash-Sharif)”. “The State of Palestine is the state of Palestinians wherever they may be. The state is for them to enjoy in it their collective, national and cultural identity”.

In fact there was no mention of the issue of refugees and the displaced, neither in the 19th PNC session nor in the preceding preparations. The focus was on declaration of statehood and launching of the peace initiatives.

Recognition of the Palestinian State did not address the Refugee Issue

PNC members were divided as to whether having a state is provisional or final. However, clear concession was made on the ancestral land and an implicit recognition of Israel was delivered. The leadership actually accepted what was being rejected or hesitant for more than two decades.

The family of nations promptly recognized the State of Palestine. U.S. President Reagan announced readiness to meet with Arafat once an unequivocal recognition of Israel occurs and negotiations start accordingly. Europe praised the realistic Palestinian position upgrading the level of PLO diplomatic delegates.

In December 1988, the UN reiterated the call for holding an International Peace Conference for peace in the M.E. with PLO participation on an equal footing with the other parties. The Security Council decided to use the term of Palestine instead of PLO starting from December 15 without altering the status of the Organization as an observer within the U.N. structures.

Subequently, Swedish Foreign Minister Sten Andersson’s mediation paved the way for a Palestinian/American dialogue that was first held on December. 18, 1988, a month after the PNC meeting and the announcement of the Palestinian peace imitative.

The positions taken in the 19th PNC session evoked a deep rift among the factions extending to the Palestinian territories and deeply dividing the Intifada United National leadership. Some went as far as accusing the Fatah leadership of “treason” and abandonment of the Cause. Islamic groups in the Occupied Territories, Jordan and the West Bank joined in the campaign to smear the leadership claiming that the Declaration of Independence was a severe setback to the achievements of the Intifada Islamic Jihad also rejected the initiative declaring that accepting 242 is an abandonment of an important part of Palestine and stated that “If the Palestinian State sees light, it will not merely abandon the rest of Palestine and give up refugee rights, but will not be a state of all the Palestinian people, especially those living in the Diaspora or within the boundaries of 1948″.

This is when the Fatah leadership came up with the slogan of the “Independent Palestinian Decision” dismissing its opponents as being subservient to other Arab regimes rather than safe-guarding Palestinian national interests. The Palestinian Communist Party was keen to defend the initiative reminding of its 1947 position in support of the UN partition plan 181 and Resolution 242 in 1967 amidst all the apprehension around.

On December 13, 1988, Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly in Geneva presenting the PNC position and the international basis of the Declaration of Independence and the right of return for refugees. He mentioned that Resolution 181 is the only birth certificate that Israel has (UNGA partition plan 29 November 1947) calling for the establishment of two states in Palestine: an Arab Palestinian and a Jewish one. He referred to UNGA Resolution 194 calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and the restoration of their property or compensating those unwilling to return. He stressed that the U.S. does not have the right to fragment international legitimacy and use it selectively. Consequently, Shultz declared that the U.S. accepted to open a dialogue with the PLO having agreed to the American conditions to formally renounce terror, accept Israel’s right to exist, and accept UN Resolution 242. Robert Pelletreau, U.S. Ambassador to Tunis was assigned to chair the American side in the Talks.

The Palestinian Leadership Not Falling in Line with the U.S. position

Following the U.S. declaration of starting a dialogue with the PLO, Israel promptly expressed surprise and resentment to the American step of talking with a “terrorist organization seeking to destroy the State of Israel”. Prime Minister Shamir dismissed Arafat’s declarations as a “sheer maneuver”. On May 14, 1989, Shamir came up with a proposal offering residents of the West Bank and Gaza self-rule and holding up elections for the autonomy plan. The U.S. was asked to help ending the Intifada and canceling the Palestinian Charter. Israel insisted upon the exclusion of the PLO from the peace process and deal with the Palestinian issue through the “Jordanian Option” that it had earlier rejected.

The Arab position over Arafat’s speech and the dialogue with the U.S. was divided. Most regimes, including Egypt and Jordan, considered that this was a victory to the Intifada. The Syrian and Lebanese leaderships were opposed claiming that Arafat abandoned the national cause and surrendered to U.S. and Israeli conditions. Iraq took a similar position in a more tacit manner.

During the four dialogue sessions the U.S. expressed full endorsement of the Israeli position. Pelletreau kept reiterating “Do not expect the U.S. to exercise pressure on Israel and do not wait for a super-imposed solution”. Clearly the dialogue was occuring in an “empty circle” as Arafat described it.

With the fourth session, Arafat felt that the U.S. is seeking to side-step the PLO and seek a delegation from the inside alone. The dialogue came to a standstill on August 16, 1989 when Yaser Abed Rabbo conveyed Arafat’s rejection of Pelletreau’s suggestions and talks were suspended. This paved the way to revive the Egyptian channel when Secretary James Baker came up with his five-point proposal in mid-September 89′. Based on that, President Mubarak declared the ten-point plan that called for exchanging land for peace as an integral part to reach a final settlement.

Madrid Peace Talks Defer Refugee Issue for Several Years

In the context of moving on with its initiative, the U.S. exerted its pressure on the PLO being the weaker party. The PLO was cautiously coordinating moves through the Egyptian channel. In December 1989, Egypt conveyed PLO’s acceptance of holding talks with Israel. Baker had suggested Israel’s acceptance of the participation of deportees from the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem in the Palestinian delegation.

The labour wing of the Israeli coalition government accepted Baker’s proposal while the Likud ministers vehemently opposed. This led to a break-up of the coalition government in March 1990.

In the background, the Gulf crisis was in the making with ramifications on the Intifada and the peace process. In May 1990, Arab leaders held a summit in Baghdad expressing support to Iraq in face of Israeli threats. Soon after, on August 2, Iraq raided Kuwait bringing an end to all moves of U.S./Palestinian dialogue and prospects of Palestinian/Israeli negotiations.

Following the defeat of Iraq and its expulsion from Kuwait, President George Bush Sr. came up on March 6, 1991 with a peace initiative based on: a) Land for Peace b) Implementation of Resolutions 242 and 338 through negotiations c) Achieve the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people d) Guarantee security and peace to Israel.

The PLO leadership welcomed the initiative expressing readiness to adapt to the new world order and the U.S. policy in the M.E. It construed that items b and c in the initiative could form a basis to discuss the issue of refugees. The Arab countries supported the initiative and Secretary Baker managed to snatch Shamir’s approval to attend. Questions arose as to whether the peace process would address the issue of refugees, the core of the conflict following the convening of the Madrid Conference on October 31, 1991.

In line with the initiative, Secretary Baker moved on at the regional and international levels to promote negotiations at the Arab, Palestinian and Israeli levels. Baker had pledged in his meeting with Palestinian figures in Jerusalem on March 13, 1991 that he will be keen to be an honest broker. However, the bulk of the pressure was exercised on the Palestinians, being the weaker side. The limitations already included in the letter of invitation were further eroded by phasing out negotiations and postponing key issues such as the refugees.

Baker capitalized on the international support by expanding participation. Japan was assigned with the task of handling the Environmental Committee in the multi-lateral talks. Canada had the Refugee Committee, Holland had the Water Committee with an up-beat regional and international back-up to the Bush initiative. In order to ensure Israel’s participation, the U.S. offered a letter of assurances. Similar letters were given to the Arab participants, including the Palestinian delegation that was part of a joint Jordanian/Palestinian delegation. Reviewing the letter of invitation and the letters of assurances to the Jordanian government and the Palestinian side indicates that the rights of the refugees were left afloat without any clear definition or specification. The Palestinians accepted deferring the matter to the final phase negotiations. Both Jordan and the Palestinians considered that the issue of refugee rights would be maintained through the text of the invitation and the letters of assurances that were contained in: a) A comprehensive peace based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 b) The principle of land for peace c) The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. It was presumed that this issue would eventually come up since “an agreement should be reached through negotiations within one year and arrangements for a transitional period would be for five years and, starting from the third year of that, negotiations over final status would start”.

With the Palestinian acceptance to participate in the Madrid formula both on the bilateral and multilateral tracks, internal Palestinian differences surfaced. The leadership deemed that there was a need to convene the PNC.

Several basic questions arose at the 20th session as to the ability to come up with positions that would fit into the American moves. Following tough discussions the PNC approved participation in the process declaring that “efforts to hold a peace conference require dealing with other parties on the basis of implementing Resolutions 242 and 338, achieve the principle of land for peace and consider Jerusalem as an integral part of the Occupied Territories. Furthermore, settlements need to be stopped and the PLO has the right to nominate its delegation from the inside, outside and Jerusalem. Refugees’ rights were considered preserved since “the solution is interconnected at all phases and levels”.

With the Palestinian approval to participate in the talks, Baker managed to involve 16 Arab countries and 20 others in the negotiations wagon in the bilateral and multilateral tracks. Baker handed each party an invitation letter specifying the role of each with letters of assurances to parties involved in bilateral talks. Mention was made as to “the objective of the peace process is to achieve a true peace and reconciliation among Arab countries, Israel and the Palestinians and conclude a just, comprehensive and permanent settlement that would ensure the security and recognition of all states in the region including Israel, as well as the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people and achieving a comprehensive peace based on Resolutions 242, 338 and the principle of land for peace”.

With the downfall of Shamir, the new labour government headed by Rabin faced both an ongoing Intifada and a U.S. seriously seeking a way out from the stalemate. Foreign Minister Peres and his deputy Yossi Beilin moved to test the pulse of the PLO. Rabin could not evade the issue anymore. In the following months, a number of meetings were held between official representatives of the PLO and the Peres team. Rabin gave them a chance later becoming a hero for the achievement of the Oslo accords entitling him to a Nobel Peace Prize.

Oslo Accords and Mutual Recognition Involved Concession on Historic Rights

In the secret Oslo channel, the issue of refugees and the displaced was raised. Consequently in the Declaration of Principles signature of the accords in 1993, the issue was deferred to the final phase negotiations that would start in the middle of 1996. The accords stated that “the two parties agree that it was high time to end up decades of confrontation and conflict and mutually recognize legitimate and political rights- and achieve a peace settlement and a historic reconciliation through the peace process”. Another paragraph referred to the final phase issues such as: “Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, neighborly relations and cooperation with others, as well as other issue of common concern”. It was also agreed “that the transitional phase agreements shall not preclude final phase negotiations” (that would result in the implementation of 242 and 338).

The Oslo accords differentiated between the 1948 refugees and the displaced of 1967 “Naziheen” whose case was referred to the quadripartite committee formed in 1995 with the participation of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the PLO. The Israeli side diverted attention from the core final phase issues into procedural matters effectively blocking dealing with the rights of refugees.

With the formation of the PNA and the leadership moving to the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, Israel stressed that the Palestinian Charter should be altered canceling those paragraphs that call for the destruction of Israel and contradict with the spirit of the signed accords. The leadership tried to avoid getting embroiled in such a matter but was cornered by the Clinton administration. After intensive discussions, the 21st PNC session was held in Gaza in summer 1996 and a majority vote was taken, in the presence of President Clinton, to redraft the Palestinian Charter in a manner that would fit and be in line with developments: All items contradicting commitments and agreements signed with Israel were cancelled. A committee was formed to draft a new constitution along these lines. Since then, the PLO has not come up with a new Charter.

However, the Palestinian team dealing with the refugee issue within the multilateral talks was adamant to consider Resolution 194 as the basis of dealing with the issue. Throughout its activity between 1992-95 and eight meetings held in Moscow, Oslo, Ottawa, Tunis, Cairo and Geneva, the team had a forum to expose the refugee issue. It discussed concrete issues of a humanitarian nature with political implications, including cases of family re-unification Also matters related to health, economic development and improving living conditions of the refugees in host countries were discussed. However, no changes occurred on the ground. Referring to Resolution 194 became a redundant exercise. The Israeli team diverted the talks to the modalities of Palestinian representation and the definitions of who are the Palestinian refugees and where the Jewish refugees fit in all of this.

Refugee Rights in the Camp David Negotiations and the Taba Talks

In the context of moves that the U.S. has undertaken to break out of the stalemate in the implementation of the Oslo accords and moving on to the final status talks, President Clinton arranged for a summit with Arafat and Barak. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright felt that Barak was heading to Washington with fresh ideas over final phase issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements etc. The assessment was that circumstances are ripe to come up with an agreement and signing, at least, a “broad framework agreement” that would contain solutions and ideas related to the final phase issues. This was the view of some of Clinton’s advisors. At most, it could result in a Declaration of Principles over a final settlement of the chronic dispute.

Clinton felt that an agreement could ease off the tension caused by the failure to honor September 13, 2000 as the final deadline to end up the final phase negotiations. Thus he could enter history as a peace-maker that managed to resolve the longest and most complicated problem of the 20th century. He felt that Barak’s offer would make that possible.

Arafat tried to postpone the summit calling upon Israel to abide by its obligations in the transitional phase. However, Clinton and his crew insisted on going ahead determining the time and place, set up previously in coordination with Barak (July 11, 2000 in Washington). Arafat deemed that he was unable to further strain the relations with the U.S. On July 9, he dispatched Ahmad Qrei’ (Abu Ala’), Saeb Erekat and Hassan Asfour to test the waters in Washington.

Prior to heading to the U.S., Arafat sought to have an Arab cover, on the assumption that the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees were of common concern. He was faced with Arab divisions and submission to U.S. pressures. The American position was opposed to any meeting of Arab leaders, even in a reduced form, lest it will undermine the forthcoming Arafat/Barak meeting.

On several occasions Arafat complained about Clinton’s rash decision in calling up for a summit. He stressed commitment to the basic positions endorsed by the Palestinian legislative bodies and International legitimacy expecting that a breakthrough was unlikely “since no Arab or Palestinian leader can give up Palestinian claims in Jerusalem or abandon refugees’ rights for return and compensation as decreed by International Resolutions”. With such a statement within the Central Committee, a declaration was issued on July 3, 2000 emphasizing adherence to previous positions over final status negotiations and a “commitment to the rights of refugees to return according to Resolution 194 and rejecting resettlement depriving them of their right”. As usual, Arafat had reviewed and amended the text prior to coming up with the final version. The Council felt that Arafat wanted a card to help him in the talks.

During the Camp David talks, the two parties formed three committees to deal with the main issues: Jerusalem, borders settlements and security, and the refugees issue from all aspects. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was assigned to coordinate for the refugee committee negotiations.

When the issue of Jerusalem and refugees was raised in the summit with Clinton and Barak, Arafat was adamant in evoking international resolutions concerning the two issues. He informed Clinton that he would not sign any document declaring the end of the conflict without solving the Jerusalem and Refugee issues. The same position was reiterated in a formal letter that the Palestinian delegation handed over to the U.S. administration on July 17, 2000. In it, it was stated that “We are seeking to reach a peace agreement. As for the three issues that were discussed we can go a long way in a manner that will ensure Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem and finding a just solution to the refugee issue based on International legitimacy, particularly Resolution 194. Arafat clearly conveyed to Clinton that he is unable to deal single-handedly over the issues of refugees and Jerusalem, claiming that he needs to consult, over the matter, with a number of Arab leaders.

President Clinton soon realized that the issues at stake are quite complicated and have delicate symbolic dimensions to both parties, particularly the Jerusalem and refugee issues. Both Barak and Arafat were not in a position to provide further concessions that would provide a common ground and gain official and popular support. Fearing the utter failure of the summit, Barak lowered the ceiling of his demands revising some of previous positions. Although he persisted in denying Israel’s responsibility for the plight of the refugees and the Nakba of 1947-48 and their right for return, according to Resolution 194, he did admit that Israel has a responsibility with other parties in their dispossession. He actually agreed to the return of some on humanitarian grounds within the family reunification scheme.

During one of the sessions, Clinton stressed the need to deal with the refugee issue. Arafat raised the specificity of the case of the refugees in Lebanon arguing that it should be given a priority given the rejection of Lebanese forces across the board for any settlement in their country. When Clinton was informed that the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon amounts to 380,000, he suggested that their return could be arranged within 10 years. According to Arafat’s narrative, this meant confining the right of return to this number. With Barak staying silent over the matter, Arafat assumed that the U.S. sponsored the principle of the return of all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon into Israel proper.

Following his return from Camp David, Arafat’s headquarters received well-wishers greeting him for his standing firm over the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees. He scored a point over his opponents that while he might be compromising over transitional phase issues, he stands firm over decisive issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees.

On August 28, 2000, the Jerusalem Committee held a meeting in Morocco, at the request of the Palestinian leadership declaring rejection of any diminishing of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem. It called upon all nations to recognize the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital and the implementation of UN Resolutions 242 and 338 and 194 concerning the return of the refugees.

During the meeting of the Central Committee in Gaza in September 2000, Arafat stated his position asserting adherence to the PNC resolutions, international legitimacy and resolutions of Arab summits over the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees. The Council listened to a report presented by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in his role as chief of the transitional and final phase negotiations team. He described the enormous pressures exerted on Arafat, both in terms of carrots and sticks. However, Arafat adamantly withstood holding up to the basic principles of the Palestinians in terms of the land, Jerusalem and refugees.

Prior to returning home, Barak expected that enormous pressure on the Palestinians could snatch Palestinian concessions over the issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and territory. Having failed to do so, he declared, prior to boarding the plane back to Tel Aviv, that “Since no deal has been reached out, then all the Israeli proposals that were offered are null and void”. However, the Israel right did not forgive him for his positions in Camp David.

Second Intifada Further Complicates Resolving the Refugee Issue

With the eruption of the second Intifada, the search for a final settlement entered a new phase. Some Palestinians thought that resorting to arms could improve the Palestinian position. In contrast, Barak felt that he managed to drag the Palestinians into the field and by exercising economic and security pressures he could force the leadership to offer the concessions that were not attained in Camp David. Every party was betting on the other to back down. Arafat sought to mobilize Arab support and managed to get the Egyptians to call for an extra-ordinary summit on October 21, 2000 on the background of the Intifada. Meanwhile, the U.S. exercised massive pressure to hold a Arafat/Barak meeting in Egypt. The Palestinian leader tried to defer the matter to a date after the Arab summit. However Clinton was adamant and Arafat backed down fearing further damage in his already faltering relation with the Administration. Following consultation, it was decided to hold the meeting on 16 October, a week ahead of the scheduled Arab summit. With Egyptian backing, Arafat managed to win over American support to involve UN Secretary General together with the EU representation as well as Egypt and Jordan.

The meeting was convened in Sharm El Sheikh with the attendance of President Clinton, Barak, Arafat, Mubarak, King Abdallah, Javier Solana and Kofi Anan. Discussion focused on halting violence and the confrontations between the Israeli army and Palestinians without addressing final status issues. The meeting failed to produce an agreement. It was concluded on October 17 with a brief U.S. statement calling upon both parties to restore calm and return to the situation prevailing before September 29, 2000. Arafat returned to Gaza expressing pride that, for the second time, he did not budge to the massive U.S./Israeli pressures. Public confidence in his position was boosted raising questions as to why negotiators in the transitional phase talks did not stand firm the way Arafat did in the final phase negotiations. To dismiss reports that there were secret accords concluded in Sharm El Sheikh, the leadership issued a statement on October 17, 2000 totally denying such rumours. Preparations were underway to hold the Arab summit that convened on October 21, 2000. The Arab leaders were in a dilemma but managed to take some political decisions and make financial pledges. It rejected the claim that the Intifada is nothing but acts of violence. The summit emphasized that the issue of Jerusalem and the right of return is an Arab responsibility. This is what Arafat was after in order to strengthen his position over these issues.

Three weeks later, the Islamic summit met in Doha, Qatar (11-12 November 2000). In the official speeches praise poured on Palestinian resilience and condemnation of Israeli practices against Palestinians. Member states that has established ties with Israel were called upon to sever such ties and cease normalization steps pending Israel’s implementation of UN resolutions related to Palestine, Holy Jerusalem, Refugees and resolving the Arab/Israeli dispute.

Meanwhile, the American election campaign due to take place on November 7, 2000 deferred any further talk regarding resumption of negotiations. Barak’s positions over final phase issues and his failure to quell the Intifada resulted in several motions of no confidence in the Israel Knesset. A vote was taken through first reading on November 28, 2000 in favour of a right wing motion calling for the disbanding of the Knesset and proceeding to early elections. The prevailing feeling was that Barak exhausted all steps to break up the stalemate and proceed forward from the point that was reached in Camp David. From Israel’s perspective, there was no way to advance on the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees.

Taba Talks Advance Dealing with the Refugee Issue

On the eve of the Israeli elections set up for February 6, 2001, labour Party leaders on the left believed that reaching a deal with the Palestinians provides the only chance for Barak to survive in the political scene. The U.S. shared this view hoping to circumvent Sharon’s rise to power. Through pressure from Haim Ramon, Yossi Beilin and some others, it was suggested that a provisional deal could be reached with the PNA. This would include deferring the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees in return to postponing the declaration of the end of the conflict. Barak had been on record of his opposing the transitional agreements that Rabin had signed. However, he did not reject the proposal off-hand.

In response, the Palestinian leadership was quick to reject reaching a deal to defer ending the conflict, in return of deferring discussion of the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees. Through special channels, Barak was informed that the Palestinian party is keen to conclude final phase issues in one package. Suggestions by some that the Israeli proposal could be a step forward and could improve the Palestinian position in the negotiations and alleviate conditions on the ground were disregarded.

The prevailing feeling among the Palestinian leadership was that any postponement of discussing the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees would mean a loss of those Palestinian rights. Constantly the Israelis avoided dealing with these issues. With increasing settlement activity in Jerusalem and widening the gap between the leadership and the refugees abroad, a serious rift would occur. The leadership would be accused of giving up the rights of refugees in return for a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Postponement would be interpreted by the refugees that their cause has been abandoned, although history indicates that more than half a century has not dispelled this issue and the rights of refugees. In fact, it was resuscitated as a core issue in the final phase negotiations.

President Clinton did not abandon his attempts. He insisted on resuming talks in Washington. As a result, Arafat accepted without specifying an agenda. On December 19, 2000, talks resumed at the level of ministers. The Administration declared that the talks were positive and further progress occurred within the mandate authority of the two parties. The meeting was adjourned on the occasion of the holiday season and the need of delegates to consult with their leaders.

Before flying home, Clinton summoned the two delegations to a surprise meeting on December 23, 2000. In the presence of his senior officials, he stated his ideas about how to solve the problem and achieve an end to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. This became known as “Clinton’s ideas” summarizing the course of negotiations under his era. The President’s mood was sad and gloomy. He refused any arguments concerning his ideas. Palestinian sources reported that on the issue of refugees, Clinton claimed that “the differences had largely to do with the style of wording”. He added that Israel is willing to recognize the emotional and material suffering of Palestinians as a result of the war of 1948. Assistance would be provided through the international community to deal with the problem. The President further proposed the establishment of an international committee to handle matters related to compensation settlement. He elaborated that the gap has to do with how to deal with the concept of the right of return providing a special interpretation of the Resolution 194 concerning the right of the refugees to return and receive compensation. Clinton implicitly supported Israel’s rejection of this Resolution since it will undermine its security and the Jewish character of the State.

The President revealed that the guiding principle, in his view, is that the Palestinian State is a focal point for refugees who choose to return. He did not dismiss that Israel could admit some refugees as citizens. Clinton added that there is a need to adopt a formula concerning the right of return whereby there is no binding right to return to Israel itself without outruling the Palestinian yearning to return to the region. He actually proposed two alternatives: 1) The two parties recognize the right of return of the Palestinian refuges to historic Palestine, or b) The two sides recognize the right of the refugees to return to their homeland. The agreement would specify the means of exercising this general right in a manner that would fit in the forthcoming two-state solution. There were five possible venues to the refugees: 1)The Palestinian State 2) Areas that would be transferred to Palestine within a territorial exchange 3) Rehabilitation in host countries 4) Resettlement in a third country 5)Admittance to Israel, with priority given to refugees in Lebanon, based on a previous talk with Arafat. The proposed solution would be considered an implementation of the 1948 UNSC Resolution 194 concerning refugees.

As for the end of the conflict, Clinton suggested that such an accord clearly brings an end to the conflict between the two sides with no further claims. The new agreement could be implemented through a new Security Council resolution. Clinton concluded his dramatic speech addressing the Palestinian and Israeli delegations declaring that “this is the best I can do. Convey this to your leaders and inform me if they are ready to come over and resume talks along these ideas. If they are willing, I am ready to meet them within a week, each separately. If they are not, then I have gone all the way I could. These are my ideas. If they are not accepted then they will be removed from the table and leave with me when I am no more in office.

Consequently, President Clinton addressed the “Israeli Policy Forum” in New York reiterating his ideas of solving the Palestinian Israeli conflict, disassociating himself from the ideas that he proposed to the two delegations in Camp David. .

It did not take long for the Israeli government to respond positively to Clinton’s initiative. The approval in principle was linked with certain reservations that were described as not touching upon the core ideas. Many observers considered that Clinton had positions that would be valuable and constructive to make a breakthrough in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Members of the Palestinian team felt the same, although they had doubts as to whether they would see light. Some questioned the motives for coming up with such ideas at the end of the President’s term. However, the Palestinian leadership was convinced that the U.S. President had coordinated his proposals with Israel before announcing them.

Following the return of the Palestinian delegation to Gaza, there was a controversy concerning Clinton’s ideas. Arafat expressed surprise that such ideas were not expressed during the tripartite summit in Camp David. However, he declared that “we have time to study Clinton’s ideas and respond”. The prevailing tendency was to reject in the form of yes or no. Nevertheless, Faisal Husseini, member of the Executive Committee in charge of the Jerusalem file, in an interview with the London-based Al Hayat newspaper declared that : “The U.S. proposal tends to deprive the refugees from the right of return to their towns and villages. However, if we want to radically deal with the refugee issue, Israel must recognize the principle of the right of return while we have to make it clear that the refugee issue could be solved without undermining the existence of Israel”.

Following an intensive discussion, the PLO Executive considered that there were many positive elements in “Clinton’s ideas”, particularly the part referring to the establishment of a Palestinian state. However, it was seen as biased in favour of Israel and lacking the elements for a just and comprehensive solution over-looking Palestinian rights, particularly those of the refugees. Equally disturbing, from the Palestinian perspective, were the items related to “ending all claims” and the cancellation of UN Resolutions 194, 242 and 338 as terms of reference, replacing them with those ideas. Hardliners in and out of the PNA flatly rejected “Clinton’s ideas”, viewing it as merely a scheme to liquidate the Palestinian cause to the advantage of the Zionist project. The prevailing trend was to oppose the ideas in principle. However, there were some who called to accept Clinton’s ideas as is, if it is not possible to amend them.

In a joint meeting of the Executive Committee, Council of Ministers and the negotiating team, it was decided to formally respond, in the name of the PLO, being the highest Palestinian body. The response was entitled “Palestinian Remarks and Questions concerning the American ideas”. A number of questions were raised while asserting that the PLO is keen to resolve the conflict through peaceful means on the basis of UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. The U.S. proposal was rejected as is, while expressing readiness to resume negotiations. Copies of the response were passed over to the Palestinian National and Islamic forces in order to emphasize the firm position of the leadership and its determination not to budge in front of the pressures exerted from all sides.

The National and Islamic forces issued a statement on January 6, 2001 expressing “a firm rejection of the American proposals aiming to impose surrender on the Palestinians and quell the Intifada”.

With Clinton’s term coming to an end on January 20, 2001, a scheduled visit by Dennis Ross was cancelled. What mattered now was to have a smooth departure of the President. However, the Administration responded to Barak’s request asking Egypt to sponsor Palestinian/Israeli talks.

Egypt, that was hesitant and doubtful of the success of such talks, was willing to act provided both parties agreed to hold the talks. For a full week marathon talks were held in Taba. From the outset Gil’ad Sher asked Saeb Erekat to take into consideration Barak’s situation and have a statement at the end of the talks that could help him in the elections.

The Taba talks and other secret negotiations held in parallel channels demonstrated clearly that what Clinton proposed in Camp David over statehood, territory, refugees, settlement and borders was all coordinated with Israel beforehand. Regarding refugees, the two parties reconfirmed in Taba what was included in Clinton’s “Memorandum of ideas”. In bilateral talks with Nabil Sha’th, Yossi Beilin further clarified Israel’s understanding of the “American Ideas” related to refugees. Israel was willing to accept the right of Palestinians to return to the “historic land of Palestine” provided it becomes clear that it does not include Israel within the 1967 borders. Return would be to the five venues specified in “Clinton’s ideas”. Beilin conveyed that Israel could absorb 70-100 thousand refugees over two years thus finally ending this problem and considering that as an implementation of Resolution 194 concerning the return of refugees and compensating them.

The Israeli side rejected Nabil Sha’th’s request of including the revenues and interest proceeds of the “Custodian of Absentee Property” over half a century in favour of the refugees since this was an income generated from utilizing their property. The Israeli position claimed that those revenues were spent, by government decrees, to transport and absorb Jewish refugees from the Arab world and elsewhere. Beilin reiterated Clinton’s proposal to establish an International Fund to compensate refugees in which Israel would contribute in a generous and responsible manner, together with other prosperous nations.

Retroactively, I believe that the Clinton/Barak formula fell short of reaching an accord on final status issues including the refugees while Taba did meet the basis for achieving a comprehensive and final agreement. Alas it came too late.

The Geneva Declaration; a Positive Contribution in the Search for a Solution

The Palestinian/Israeli Coalition for peace, headed by Beilin and Abed Rabbo emphasized that it is indeed possible to reach an agreement over the thorny final status issues. The Geneva Declaration that was agreed upon on October 1, 2003 formed a specific basis to solve the refugees issue as well as the other final status issues. While Clinton’s ideas were adopted concerning the refugee issue, it became more relevant in that it became an unofficial Palestinian/Israeli document. While the Ayalon/Nusseibeh Document fell short of the Palestinian demands regarding solving the refugee problem, confining the right to compensation and return to the territory of the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the boundaries of 1967, it nevertheless has supporters on both sides. Despite Palestinian reservations and its unofficial character, this has been confirmed by the signatures endorsing it.

Footnotes and References

1) Arab League Documents on Palestine Concerning Refugee Property and Resettlement, 280 Selected Documents, PLO Department of Culture, 1987.
2) First Arab Summit Resolutions, ibid.
3) PLO Documents, First PNC resolutions, National Council Publications.
4) Palestinian National Charter, PLO publications.
5) Second PNC session, PNC Documents.
6) Third PNC session, PNC Documents.
7) Initiative text, 280 Selected Documents, op. cit.
8) Khartoum Summit Resolutions in the Palestinian Israeli Documents.
9) The Karama battle is a turning point in the Palestinian armed struggle. It brought the PLO fighters to the forefront planting the seeds of clashes between the Jordanian army and the guerillas. Details of the battle are elaborated in Yazid Sayegh’s The Search for an Entity, IPS, Beirut.
10) The Fourth PNC was formed of representatives of all fighting Palestinian organizations, including a number of officers from the Palestinian Liberation Army and some independents, Palestine Documents, op. cit.
11) Seat distribution of fifth PNC, 280 Selected Documents, op. cit.
12) Ibid. quoted from The Jewish Observer.
13) Fifth Session Resolution, PNC Documents.
14) 280 Selected Documents, op. cit. quoted from news agencies 23.3.69.
15) The PDFLP was notorious in this field. Infantile leftism included celebrating Lenin’s birthday and announcing celebration events from mosque minarets with the leadership justifying such practices.
16) William Quandt, American Diplomacy and the Arab/Israeli Conflict, Al Ahram Center, 1994.
17) Eighth PNC Session Resolutions.
18) In 1968-69 clashes occurred between the Lebanese army and Palestinian guerillas. Nasser intervened concluding the “Cairo Accord” in November 69’ that was kept a secret even vis-à-vis the Lebanese parliament. The justification was not to provide Israel with a pretext to attack Lebanon. The accord established guerilla presence in Lebanon allowing arming the camps, having special roads and bases with freedom to launch armed attacks on Israel.
19) Ninth Session Resolutions, PNC.
20) The extra-ordinary tenth PNC session. A provisional plan was approved to unify factions and popular forces. The PLO struggle was to focus on four axes: Pursue in mobilizing and organizing people inside and outside the homeland, enhance the interaction of the Jordanian and Palestinian popular struggle, absolute rejection of the United Kingdom project and calling upon Arab countries that had accepted Resolution 242 to reject it.
21) In an attempt to assert its presence, the PLO conducted a well-planned operation in assaulting the Israeli Olympic team. Aby Iyad and Abu Daoud planned the operation that caused enormous political damage to the PLO. Fatah never repeated such forms of attacks. Israel vowed to liquidate all those who were involved in the operation and managed to assassinate most of them.
22) Abu Al Walid was a commander in the Jordanian army. Together with most of his officers he joined the PLO in 1970 forming Al Yarmouk brigade. He played a crucial role in reorganizing Fatah forces. He instituted the rank systems and regular military formations. Abu Al Walid had pan-Arab tendencies, was voted to Fatah Central Committee and headed the operations, playing a central role in resistance during the war of 1982. Following expulsion from Lebanon, he was based in Damascus and opposed the split within Fatah. During one of his field tours in the Beka’ area, he was killed through a carefully-prepared ambush on September 29, 1982 and was buried in the martyr’s cemetery around Yarmouk camp.
23) Refer to the text of the First Provisional Program presented to the eleventh PNC session, Palestine Documents.
24) In the aftermath of an increase in resistance operations, Israel decided to assassinate Abu Yousef, Kamal Adwan and Kamal Nasir. Following intelligence preparations, an Israeli assault team attacked through the sea in the trail of Mossad agents that had already entered Lebanon through U.S. and European passports, booking in hotels and renting seven cars. Barak led the group that killed the three leaders with no losses on the Israeli side. Shahak, who was assigned to blow off the PDFLP headquarters managed to carry out the mission but lost two paratroop soldiers (Abidai Shour and Hagai Ma’ayan).
25) Kissinger’s visit to Moscow resulted in a joint proposed with the Soviets to the Security Council calling upon the conflicting parties to cease fire. This was the background for Resolution 338 that called for an immediate cease-fire, start negotiations under the aegis of the UN to achieve a just and permanent peace. Egypt and Syria accepted and pledged to abide while Israel did not. The text of the resolution could be found in the PLO documents, op. cit.
26) Resolution of the 12th session, PNC
27) Resolution of the 13th session, PNC.
28) Framework Agreement of Autonomy- Camp David Accords, 280 Selected Documents, op., cit.
29) Framework Agreement between the PLO and Jordan, ibid.
30) Resolutions of the 14th session, PNC.
31) Resolutions of the 15th session, PNC.
32) The Reagan initiative included elements that could be viewed positive from the Palestinian perspective. This included mention that “the military losses of the PLO have not done away with the Palestinian aspirations for a just solution to their demands”. It also referred that “the war in Lebanon has demonstrated another fact that Palestinians strongly feel that their plight is not just a refugee matter and I agree with that”. PLO documents, International Resolutions on Palestine 1917-91.
33) The summit endorsed eight principles that included: Asserting the right of return of the Palestinian people, self determination, exercising established national rights, the PLO as the sole legitimate representative, compensation to refugees who do not wish to return and the Establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital.
34) Prince Fahed’s initiative and resolutions of the second Fez summit.
35) Three members of the Palestinian delegation (Abu Maher Yamani of the PFLP and member of the Executive Committee, Talal Naji of the PFLP General command and also member of the Executive Committee and Nimer Saleh (Abu Saleh) of Fatah Central Committee issued a joint statement in Fez declaring that recognition of Israel is a blunt violation of PNC resolutions and “a free concession to the Zionist enemy in return for false hopes”. Following the delegation’s return from Fez, the Syrian-supported Sa’ika, the Popular Struggle Front, joined those opposing item seven in the summit declaration. Arafat’s acceptance of the Fez resolutions became a matter of sharp controversy.
36) On September 17, 1982 a large contingent of Lebanese forces entered the Sabra and Shatila camps led by Elie Hubeika and perpetrated a horrible massacre killing around 1,000 Palestinians. This was encouraged and supervised by Israeli Defense minister Ariel Sharon.
37) Amman Accord, Palestine Documents, PLO 1987.
38) Initiative text in “The Coup D’etat”, Mamdouh Nofal, Al Shuruq Publishing, Amman.
39) Only July 31, 1988, King Hussein delivered a speech where he stated: “Recently there seem to be a Palestinian, Arab and international trend asserting the need to stress the Palestinian identity, fully in every effort and endeavor related to the Palestinian cause. There also seems to be a general conviction that maintaining legal and administrative ties with the West contradicts with such a trend”. One may say that this declaration contributed in aborting the Shultz initiative. The text of King Hussein’s speech, Shu’un Falastiniya” # 185, August 1988.
40) Text of speech in Al Hurriya, organ of the PDFLP, second half, November 88’.
41) Declaration of Independence, 19th session, PNC.
42) Hamas platform- Maher Sharif, The Search for an Entity, Nicosia 95.
43) Arafat’s speech in Geneva, PLO documents.
44) The Baker points included: a) The U.S. understands that Egypt is not a substitute to Palestinians who will be consulted on all issues of importance to them and affecting their lives. b) Egypt and Israel agreed to hold a Palestinian/Israeli dialogue in Cairo. c) Israel shall participate in the negotiations on the basis of Shamir’s special initiative on May 14, 1989 to hold elections in the West Bank and according to the Israeli plan. d) It is understood that the Palestinians will be free to raise issues that reflect their opinion as to the form and procedure of elections and the success in the negotiating process. e) Israel will indulge in dialogue with Palestinians once she feels comfortable with the list of Palestinian participants.
45) The ten points can be found in the appendix of Mamdouh Nofal’s “The Coup D’etat”, Amman, Al Shuruq Publishing, 1996.
46) Before convening the Madrid Conference, the U.S. and Russian sponsors sent a letter to all parties attending, specifying the bases and ground rules of the conference on all tracks, ibid.
47) The Letters of Assurances: The invitation letter evoked reservations with certain texts being ambiguous. Clarifications and amendments were requested. In response Baker satisfied the various parties by handing each an American letter of assurances.
48) The Central Committee Statement, PNC archive at
49) Saeb Erekat in a closed seminar held by Afaq quarterly, Future Academy for Creative Thinking, Ramallah, Issue 8, summer 2000.
50) Arafat’s speech in the National Security Council Meeting- in Mamdouh Nofal’s “Al Intifada: Explosion of the Peace Process”, Al Ahliya Publishing, Amman 2001.
51) Clinton’s declaration in the Sharm El Sheikh summit, ibid.
52) Statement of Palestinian Leadership 17.10.2000. Wafa Website
53) Clinton ideas/ appendix 12, Nofal “The Intifada: Explosion of the Peace Process” op. cit.
54) Ibid.
55) Clinton’s speech “Jewish Forum Institute”, Journal of Palestine Studies #47.
56) Faisal Husseini’s interview, London Al Hayat, 11 January, 2001.
57) Palestinian remarks on Clinton’s ideas, Journal of Palestine Studies #45, 46.
58) Statement of National and Islamic forces, The Intifada electronic Archive and also the Fatah website.
59) Nabil Sha’th in official meetings, Nofal’s “Al Intifada”, op. cit.
60) Geneva Declaration known as Beilin/Abed Rabbo declaration.
61) Ayalon/Nusseibeh Declaration.